Maryland Startups Sweep Finals at National Competition
A national field of about five dozen shrunk to 16 and then to four, and by that point only Maryland teams remained. It may sound like a hometown fan’s March Madness basketball bracket, but that’s the outcome at the Association of University Technology Manager’s (AUTM) national business plan competition.
AUTM officials selected the finalists as part of a blind panel process, and, on March 14, LifeSprout claimed the top prize of $10,000 at the Pitch and Play Venture Challenge, edging out fellow Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) startups Pathovax and Multisensor Diagnostics and University of Maryland startup Grip Boost.
“Winning the AUTM competition is terrific. It is a validation of our team’s efforts to build something of great value for patients, partners, and investors,” LifeSprout CEO Sashank Reddy says.
“It is also a validation of the great work of JHTV, TEDCO and the Abell Foundation in supporting local startups. It is no accident that three of the final four teams in this national business plan competition were from JHTV and all four had TEDCO support.”
LifeSprout is developing a suite of minimally invasive products that can be used to restore missing soft tissues, particularly for those who lost soft tissue due to cancer surgery or as a result of trauma. The award money will allow the company to scale up the manufacturing of its composites as it looks toward clinical trials.
At the event held in Hollywood, Florida, each team made a 10-minute presentation and then fielded questions from a panel of five seasoned venture capitalists from across the country.
“The VC panel has been asking me how we help our startups,” says JHTV’s Technology Transfer Director Hassan Naqvi, who attended the event. “They are very impressed with the quality of the business plans going into the session.”
“This success is a testament to the work and drive of the startup companies in the competition as well as proof positive of Christy Wyskiel’s vision and Brian Stansky’s translation of that vision into FastForward,” Naqvi continues, referring to the head of JHTV and its director of FastForward, respectively.
Sonavex, a JHTV startup currently operating out of FastForward Homewood, won the competition in 2015, and the success of one could have played a role in what happened this year.
“When someone sees someone else be successful, there’s an ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” Stansky tells The Daily Record. “You’re thickening the soup in which things can come together and grow.”
Here’s an overview of each of the finalists:
- Multisensor Diagnostics: Based in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, Multisensor Diagnostic is developing a portable handheld device designed to quickly and easily gather an individual’s key vital signs. CEO: Sathya Elumalai
- Pathovax: A startup leasing shared lab space at the FastForward 1812 innovation hub, Pathovax is developing a universal HPV vaccine. The pilot pipeline vaccine promises to provide protection against all 15 oncogenic HPV types and many others that cause warts. Earlier this year, Pathovax won the 43North startup competition and $500,000. Co-founders: Weijie Poh, Joshua Wang
- Grip Boost: A part of UM Ventures, Grip Boost has developed chemically modified grip solution for football gloves and other sport grips that is legal and easy to use. It currently sells grip products for football, baseball, softball and golf.